Getting serious about funny beer trademarks

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2017 | Trademark Law |

There’s something about craft beer that seems to encourage unusual names. Who would drink a Pabst or Budweiser when there are such products available as Buttface Amber Ale? Or “I’ll have what the gentleman on the floor is having – Polygamy Porter.” From Palo Alto, we have Hoppy Ending Pale Ale.

For whatever reason, the moose gets a lot of play on labels. There’s Moose Drool brown ale out of Montana. And on the other side of the country in Vermont, there’s Hop’N Moose Brewing Company in Rutland – though a trademark challenge could bring an end to that name. The company looking to remove it from bar walls and liquor stores is the largest Canadian-owned brewer – Moosehead Breweries.

Moosehead is mounting a trade infringement suit against the Vermont facility. It says the smaller competitor’s name and logo are too similar to its own name and logo registered trademark such that consumers could become confused – hurting Moosehead’s earnings and reputation.

Whether there’s a real threat of that or not is likely to be a key issue in court. Moosehead distributes its product in 17 countries. Hop’N Moose reportedly has only its Rutland brewery and distributes to 15 area stores. Moosehead reportedly saw revenue of about $260 million last year. Hop’N head, we assume, did not. It is worth noting, though, that Moosehead has successfully defended its mark previously.

For now, the owner of Hop’N Moose says he hasn’t seen the suit and doesn’t have an attorney. He indicates he’s in discussions with Moosehead, and hopes he won’t have to change his logo. He says some lawyer friends with whom he has spoken say the whole case is ridiculous, but he says “trademark law is a funny area.”

It will be interesting to see whether the Moosehead case has legs.